Over 500 non-coal mineral blocks, partially or minimally explored under current leases, but are entangled in legacy issues and litigation, will be up for grabs as the Cabinet is learnt to have approved a proposal to amend the relevant law for their re-allocations through competitive bidding.
Also, the employment-intensive, but highly under-invested sector, will get a fillip from a Cabinet decision to do away with end-use restrictions for miners. Those with captive leases will be allowed to sell the minerals in the open market.
Sources said the Cabinet also gave the go-ahead for reallocation of several non-producing blocks of the state-run companies, a move that could also enthuse the private players as many of these blocks have abundant proven resources.
The moves are in sync with the National Mineral Policy, which aims to increase the domestic production of non-coal, non-fuel minerals by 200% in seven years with a greater private sector participation.
The leases stuck in disputes and legacy issues have failed to start production even after a 5-year window provided under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act in 2015. The rescinding of the relevant sections of the Act will bring these leases back in the hands of state for prompt reallocation, the sources said. The current holders of these leases will be compensated for exploration expenditure incurred by them, by dipping into the funds under the National Mineral Exploration Trust (NMET).
Mineral-potential areas will be put to auction offering seamless prospecting licence-cum-mining-leases and this will add to certainty of tenure and will come in handy for potential investors with deep pockets and appetite for long-gestation projects.
“These amendments will make a large number of mines available for auctions. It will help us strengthen the ‘auction-only’ regime and boost transparency in the system,” an official source said.